Difference Between Hookah and Bong

Hookah vs Bong

Hookah and bong may sound alien words to someone who is not interested in smoking or at least different ways to inhale tobacco smoke. Hookah and bong are devices or equipment used to smoke tobacco. These are very similar in construction leading to confusion in the minds of westerners who are evincing great interest in these devices that originated in the eastern cultures. This article takes a closer look at hookah and bong to point out the subtle differences for the benefit of the readers.


Hookah is a smoking device that is believed to have originated in the Indian subcontinent. In different eastern cultures, there is a different name for the device used to inhale smoke burning tobacco that is made to pass through a water bowl. In Maldives, it is referred to as Gudugudaa, in Afghanistan as a Chillim, and in Syria, Iraq, Uzbekistan and many other countries the name used for such a device is Nargile. This word seems to have evolved from a Sanskrit word Narikela that refers to the use of coconut shells for the purpose of smoking. In many countries, in the Middle East, Sheesha is the word used for Hookah.

The British were hooked to hookah, and they took the word and incorporated it into English. Basically, a hookah has 4 parts, the bowl or the head where burning tobacco is kept, the base that is partially filled with water, the pipe that connects the bowl to the base container filled with water, and the hose that carries the smoke only and does not dip into water. Mostly charcoal is used to heat up tobacco, but in some countries, electric heaters are used for the purpose. When a smoker inhales through the pipe, the smoke of the tobacco is pulled out and made to pass through the water at the base and finally into the pipe in the mouth of the smoker. Passage through water causes filtration of the smoke and also cools it down giving a smooth feeling to the smoker in sharp contrast to the hot smoke of modern cigarettes.


Bong is a word that is commonly used in western countries for a smoking device that is similar in construction to the eastern hookah. However, it is smaller than a hookah and can be easily carried from one place to another. It can be used to smoke not just tobacco but also cannabis and other products including herbs. The origin of the word bong is traced to a Thai word Buang that refers to a similar device used for smoking. In Far East and in many African countries, Bongs have been used for smoking for many centuries.

There is a stem with a mouth where tobacco or cannabis is burnt. This stem goes down to a cylindrical bowl that contains water at the base. The top of the cylinder has a mouthpiece through which a smoker inhales smoke. The smoke is drawn into the water bowl where it gets filtered, and heavy particles in the smoke are left behind.

What is the difference between Hookah and Bong?

• Hookah and bong are similar devices used to inhale smoke of tobacco and other similar products like cannabis and other herbs.

• Hookah has a long pipe and is larger in construction than a bong.

• Hookah is believed to have originated in Indian subcontinent, whereas bong has been used in Far East countries for centuries.

• Bongs are smaller and thus easily portable.